UPDATED: August 25, 2016
How to Permanently Delete Your Google History
We all know about Google. In fact, you probably just found this guide through Google!
It is perhaps the most famous company in the word. So famous in fact that its name has made it into the dictionary. Whether you use Google for their browser, search engine, webmail, maps, or something else, we all use Google products every day.
But what we don’t all know is how much Google knows about us...
- Do you know much Google knows about your identity? -
The rather frightening fact is, they probably know you better than you know yourself. Through our casual use of search engines and emails, we give away so many bits of information about ourselves.
When these are stitched together, they can provide a chillingly accurate picture of ourselves. One which will often include details about us that we have never told anyone.
The extent of Google’s knowledge about all of their users is really quite staggering. They can know if they are young or old; male or female; fat or thin; working or unemployed, married or single; gay or straight; the list goes on and on and on.
How do they know all of this? Well, if we search for something online, that provides information that can be interpreted. For example, a search for the word baby monitor can be interpreted as meaning you are expecting a child. You can also make deductions about a person’s age, marital status, living circumstances, and sexuality from that search. Realising this can be pretty scary for some people!
And that is just one search. Then they can put it together with all the other searches you make, plus your emails, and all your other data. And make no mistake, they do not erase history at all. All of your Google data as far back as 2005 is still retained.
And what it can give Google is an unerringly accurate portrait of you as an individual. Your Google History tells them everything they need to know.
Most people are unaware that Google can, and does, compile such profiles of users. Nor do they know that it is this which allows Google to make money. Our personal data is Google’s profits.
So what can we do about it? Well if you are not happy about Google doing this, there are a number steps you can take to protect your data. And that is what this article is all about.
Because nowadays it is possible to delete your Google History permanently. Want to know how to clear Google history? Keep on reading to find out.
Special considerations to make
NOTE: Firstly, let’s be clear this is not as straightforward as you might think. Many people believe that your browser history is the record of your online activity. They delete this and assume the information has gone. WRONG!
To delete google search history is very different to deleting your browser history. Your Google search history is the information held by the company about you. It is not the data collected by your browser on your own computer or mobile device. Deleting your browser history does not remove any data from Google’s servers. It doesn’t change their records of you in any way.
To clear history, you have to remove the data held by the company. This is possible, but as you will see, there are a number of steps to take.
CAUTION: If you are considering how to delete your Google history at work, stop for a minute and read this note...
Many employers have their own data retention policies and strict rules about what employees can and can’t delete.
So if you are at work, and especially if you are using Google Apps for Work, it is vital that you find and read these policies before proceeding with this process. If you don’t and you end up deleting information you are not supposed to, we cannot be held responsible!
1. How to download, delete and disable Google web & app history
Ok, so if you have decided you want a clear google search history, and that it’s time Google didn’t know quite so much about you, here’s how it’s done.
Now it might surprise you to know that it is possible to download your entire Google history. And what is more, it is Google themselves who have provided the tools to do this.
‘I’m not sure I want to see my search history’ was the call from many people (myself included if I’m honest!). But for those not frightened by the potential embarrassment, it can be very interesting to see what you were looking at several years ago.
How to download your Google History
1. First, you will need to visit Web and App History Page.
- snapshot of Google’s Web & App History page -
2. Once there, click on the vertical ellipsis (⋮) in the top right-hand corner.
- snapshot of ellipsis dropdown menu -
3. A drop-down menu will appear. Click ‘Download Searches’.
- snapshot of Download Searches option -
4. Then you have to wait. A message will appear to inform you that Google is preparing your archive. As these tend to be pretty big, it isn’t a process that even a company as big as Google can do instantly.
- snapshot of archive preparation message -
They will send you an email when the process is complete. Usually, it doesn’t take too long. You might have time to go and make a cup of tea. If you have been a particularly prolific user, you might have time to kick back and watch TV for a wee while.
5. Finally, after keeping an eye on your email account, an email should arrive with a link telling you that your archive of google searches is ready. This document will be automatically placed into your Google Drive, so to open it you can either click on the link provided in the email or visit your Google Drive at your leisure and open the file from there.
By following this relatively simple process you will be able to view your Google History and see just how much Google remembers about you.
If you are anything like me there will be some fascinating and long forgotten interests in there. So just for sentimental reasons, it is well worth having a look through it.
But this article is about how to clear Google search history, so let me now explain the process by which we do that.
How to delete Google Search History
1. Once again you will need to go to the Google Web and App History Page.
2. And again on that page, the place to go first is the vertical ellipsis (⋮) in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
3. A drop-down menu will appear. This time, you will need to click on ‘Delete Activity By’.
4. A box will appear with the options for you to “Delete Web & App Activity for:” and then a choice. The three options that will instantly appear are ‘Today’, ‘Tomorrow’, and ‘Advanced’.
Choose advanced and then on the select date option, choose ‘All Time’.
5. Obviously, this is not something Google are keen for you to do. So they will then pop up a box cautioning you that “deleting Web and App activity may limit products like Google Maps and Google Now from offering tailored results”.
This is unlikely to matter to most people but is nevertheless worth noting.
It is however also important to be aware that this is a one-way process. Once this information is deleted, there is no way to restore it. So do be sure that this is something you want to do before proceeding.
Depending on the amount of data there is in your Google web history this process could take anything from a few seconds to a few minutes. Be patient!
Once it is complete you will see the Web and App History page again. This time, your activity file should say ‘No items to show’.
Congratulations! You wanted to clear Google history, and you now have done. Your Google web history is no more.
But obviously, you are still going to be using the internet from this point forward. And you are probably still going to want to use Google products.
There is a reason why Google’s search engine is so popular; why Gmail is one of the biggest webmail services in the country; and why many of Google’s other services are market leading products:
Quite simply, they are the best.
So is it possible to continue using these products and services without building up a new Google History? I’m sure you don’t want to have to go through the process of having to clear Google history again.
You will be delighted to know that it is entirely possible to make a google history delete permanent, and to stop Google from collecting your user data again. And this next section explains how to do it.
How to disable (or pause) your Google Web & App History
To stop Google from building up a new web history linked to you, you will need to go through the following process. This process will enable you to disable your Google Web and App history.
This is sometimes referred to as ‘pausing’ it because it is a reversible process. If for whatever reason you were to decide that you wanted Google to start collecting your search history again, you can.
So, to disable or ‘pause’ your Google Web & App History, you will need to go through the following steps:
1. Yet again you must go to the Google Web and App History Page.
2. And once more on that page, the place to go first is the vertical ellipsis (⋮) in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
3. The same drop-down menu will appear. This time, you must select the ‘Activity Controls’ option.
4. This will open up a page known as the Account controls page. On this page, is a section containing various options to have active or paused. On the right-hand side of the section is a blue switch. By sliding this switch from one side to the other, you can turn this function on or off.
5. As before, this is a process that Google would like you not to switch off. You will, therefore, be faced with another page asking you to confirm the action.
This page will tell you how Google use web and app data to personalize your Google experience. Again, to most users, this will not matter.
But the page will also say that ‘even when this setting is paused, Google may temporarily store searches in order to improve the quality of the active search session.
What this means is that Google will retain data while you are using their search engine. However, as soon as you finish that session, the data relating to it will not be retained in your Google history.
To disable or ‘pause’ your Google Web & App History, click the pause button.
6. You should now see your Account Controls Page. The switch to the right of the section should now be grey (before it was blue). If it is not grey, repeat this process, as it means something has gone wrong.
7. For some users, this will be enough. And there is no reason why you cannot stop there.
... if you want to be even more thorough, you can also ask Google to disable or ‘pause’ all of the history logs it creates. This includes logs from other Google services such as Maps, Gmail, and G-Drive. It also includes data collected from your Google use on mobile devices as well as your YouTube history as well. Want these done too?
To do this, you just need to scroll down to the further options presented with the same blue/grey switch offered below the “Web & App” history top section.
Each of these sections is another area where Google collects and stores a history of your activity. And you will see that each section also has a blue switch to the right-hand side.
Read down the page carefully, so you understand what each section refers to. If you are happy to disable (or ‘pause’) that section, slide the switch the left again. As before, each time you slide the switch to the left, it should turn grey. This tell you that you have disabled (or ‘paused’) that process.
Once all of the switches on the Show More Controls page have been disabled, the process is complete. Google should no longer be collected any data about you as a user that can be traced back to you. Importantly. They should not be collecting any data with which they can create a profile of you as a user.
1. Knowing the consequences of deleting history
So the processes outlined above tell you how to view your Google history; how to delete Google History; and how to disable (or ‘pause’) your Google history.
However, it is worth pointing out in a little more detail what doing this actually means for you as a Google user.
As was noted above, to delete search history is a one-way process. Once that data has been deleted, there is no way that it can be retrieved. Even a tech company as mighty as Google does not have a technique to recover data which has been permanently deleted...
- Try to avoid deleting that which can not be recovered -
And of course, to clear search history does have a knock-on effect for you as a Google user. For some Google users, these effects will not make one iota of difference to their user experience. And their online privacy will matter a lot more that what they are losing out on.
But for some, these functions can be extremely useful, and to unintentionally lose them would be a problem.
2. Does deleting my google history mean no more personalized services?
What deleting your Google history does is remove the data Google users to tailor services to you as an individual. With the data they hold, they can predict what you might be looking for in future Google searches. The same technique can be used on all of their services. It makes them unique to you.
If this is something which is important to you, my suggestion would be not to delete History.
Because the impact when you erase history is to remove this data. From that point on, Google will only be able to use the data from your current session. It will not remember anything from previous sessions.
It will forget your auto-saved logins. It will forget your passwords. It will forget all your preferences. It will forget absolutely everything about you.
This might mean some processes take longer. And it might mean that some actions which happen automatically now, won't in the future.
The decision about whether to do this is very much down to the individual user. It is not something that I missed or even noticed particularly when I did go through this process with my own Google account.
But that won’t be true for everyone. So do think carefully if this is the right thing to do for you.
3. Deleting and disabling does not make you invisible to Google
Now it should be noted that deleting your Google search history and disabling (or ‘pausing’) your Google history, does not make you totally invisible. It just stops Google from keeping a record of what you use their services for.
But it does not remove your online identity altogether. So how can you make yourself invisible from Google?
The hard truth is that you can’t make yourself totally invisible. Unless you stop using the internet altogether, there will always be some form of information left behind about you.
- Sadly, invisibility is impossible if you still want to use Google -
But while it might not be possible to make yourself totally invisible, there are steps that you can take to make it as hard as possible for Google to see you online.
Stop using Google services: The most obvious of these steps is to stop using Google services altogether. Without using their services, it is very difficult for Google to keep tabs on you.
But this is a big step to take. It means you have to delete Gmail account, stop using Google maps, no more Google+ updates, and no more videos on YouTube...
Of course, there are alternative services you can use, but there is a reason why Google’s services are so popular. They are amongst the best on the market, and usually very user-friendly. So to stop using them altogether will be an inconvenience for many.
There are plenty of other search engines you can use that have a focus on privacy:
None of these will keep a record of your search history. This is ideal for users who care about their online privacy.
However, this might be a step too far for many users. And Google is a massive online presence, so to not use any of their services is extremely difficult.
But there are steps you can take which are pretty effective at hiding your online identity from Google.
4.1 Delete Chrome Extensions:
If you are a user of Google’s Web Browser, Google Chrome, you probably have a number of extensions installed. Some of these come with the software and are automatic. Others might be ones you have added on yourself. But as well as providing useful functions, may are also likely to be recording what you are doing online.
So deleting these extensions is a sensible precaution to take. This is how you do it:
a) Firstly, you will need to open Google Chrome, either by clicking the icon on your desktop, or searching for the program in your files and programmes. Once open, you will need to look for the three vertical dots icon. It can be found in the top right-hand corner of your screen.
b) Once you click on this, look down the menu until you find the option called ‘More Tools’. It is the final option at the bottom of the menu before exit:
c) Clicking on the ‘More Tools’ option will open up a side menu. On this side menu, you will need to click on the option called ‘extensions’.
d) This link will open up a menu which lists all of the extensions which have been downloaded or added to your version of Google Chrome. On the right-hand side of each name on the list is a checkbox next to the word enable, and beside that is an image of a dustbin. This image is the delete icon.
To delete an extension, all you have to do is click on this dustbin icon, and the extension has been removed. Look down the list carefully. Some extensions can be extremely useful. There are plenty that can add to your online privacy whilst using Google Chrome.
But any that you don’t use, that you don’t recognize, or that you know are likely to be collecting data about your use of Google Chrome, should be deleted.
This process will remove all Google Chrome extensions that appear on the list (if you want to). But there are some Google Chrome extensions that do not appear. And these are often the ones which cause you the most problems.
- Sometimes you have to look REAL close to find the problems -
So, how do you delete those extensions. Again, the process is relatively straightforward:
a) You cannot delete extensions that don’t show on this list from inside Google Chrome. So close Google Chrome down. You need to find your Default Folder Location. The location of this will differ depending on which operating system you are using. It may also vary depending on which version it is.
It is likely to end with the line GoogleChromeUser DataDefault, on all versions, though.
If you don’t know where to look for this file, one easy way to find it is to right click on your Google Chrome icon. This will open up a menu which includes an option called ‘Properties’. If you open up this option, the Target: field you see at the top of the window should show the location of the folder.
b) Inside this Default folder, you will a number of folders. One of these folders should be titled extensions. You should open this folder.
c) Inside this folder will be a series of folders which relate to every extension on your version of Google Chrome. The titles of these folders will not make any sense to you.
They are just made up of a random series of letters. But if you open one of the folders you will see a folder with the version number of the extension as its title. Opening this folder, in turn, will show you enough information to be able to work out what the extension is.
d) To delete the extension in this way, you must go back to the main extensions folder. Here you should delete the folder with the random names. Deleting this will delete the extension from Google Chrome in its entirety.
Using these two methods, you can successfully delete all of your Google Chrome Extensions. Of course, if there are some extension you still wish to keep, you can delete just those you don’t want.
4.2 Deleting Your Gmail Account:
Along with the Google search engine, your Gmail account is one of the best methods for Google to gather information about you.
Now, you can change all the Google settings you want, but if you want to be absolutely sure Google is not using your Gmail account to gather information about you, there is only one approach worth taking: delete Gmail account.
There are two recognized ways to do this, and I will walk you briefly through both processes below:
1. Delete your whole Google Account:
IF you are particularly privacy-conscious, this is the option that we would recommend. However, it should be noted that this process will delete all of your Google accounts across their full range of services. Your Gmail account is just one thing that will disappear.
So how does it work?
a) First, you have to sign out of your Google Account. Make sure that you are signed out of Gmail, YouTube, G Drive, Google+, and any other Google service you use. To do this, simply go to each service and sign out accordingly.
To be sure that you are totally logged out, you should be able to look to the top of the Google homepage and see an option to ‘Sign In’. If there is any reference to your account there, you are still signed in somewhere.
b) Then, you will need to log into the Google Account you want to delete. Click the arrow next to your name to double-check that you are not signed in with multiple accounts:
- if you are also signed into multiple accounts, these will show below your main account -
c) Once you have logged in you will need to open your Account Details. You can do this in the upper right corner of the page, by clicking the small downward arrow next to your Avatar (account picture). This will open up a card and on this card you need to click ‘My Account’. You can see this in the previous screenshot shown in step “b”, above.
d) On your Account Details page, you will see an option labelled ‘Account Preferences’. Click on this:
- Account Preferences option within your Google account -
e) In the Account Preferences section, you will need to scroll down the page until you come to the section titled Delete your account or services.
f) Click on this option and then be sure to click all of the “bin” options that come up on the following page.
Google may ask you to confirm that you want to permanently delete your Google Account and all of its associated data, while also prompting you to sign in again to confirm ownership of your account before deleting it. If there is any data or information stored within your Google Account, you will need to save it elsewhere.
Whether it is in G Drive, Gmail, or another service, this will apply. If you delete your account without saving this data elsewhere, it will be lost. And Google will not be able to help you retrieve it.
g) You may then be asked to enter your Google Account password one final time. There will also be more boxes you will have to check to confirm one more time that you want to delete your account and all of its data.
And with that, your Google Account will be permanently deleted. If you have used your Google Wallet, you will be asked to confirm that you will be responsible for any outstanding transactions it may contain. But that aside, your Google account is no more.
2. Delete your Gmail Address only:
The other option you can use is to delete just your Gmail Account. This will leave all of your other Google accounts intact, but delete the email account in its entirety.
And to do this, you need to use the following process:
a) First, you will need to log into your Google Account as usual.
b) Then in the upper right-hand corner of the page, you will need to find my account. Again you can do this by clicking on the small arrow next to your avatar.
c) Once more the section you are looking for is ‘Data Tools’. To get there, you will need to click ‘Account Preferences’ and then the option labelled ‘Data Tools’.
d) In the ‘Data Tools’ window you will need to select the option to ‘Delete Products’.
e) Within that window, you will see the option to permanently delete your Gmail account only. Select this option. You will be asked to confirm that this is what you want to do. And again you will be warned that any data held within the email account will be lost.
As was noted in the other method, do be sure that you have saved any data you need from your Gmail account elsewhere before deleting it. Once your account has been deleted, that data is not coming back.
- No one likes to lose important data -
You will also be asked to provide a new email address to use when logging into your other Google services.
f) After one final confirmation, you will have to click the button marked ‘Remove Gmail’, and with that, your Gmail account is permanently deleted.
g) Check the other email account you entered before deleting the account. You should receive an email from Google confirming that your Gmail account is permanently deleted. This will include a link to verify the decision.
You will have to click on this link. A new page will open up which asks you to enter your new email address and password. Do this, and then press the button to ‘Remove Google’. Just as a note of caution, the deletion process at this point can sometimes take a few minutes.
The exact time will depend on the size of your Gmail account. But be patient, because it is in the process of deleting your account. And with that, you will have successfully deleted Gmail account, but kept the rest of your Google services intact.
The processes we have detailed in this article are great for helping you to erase history, delete Google search history, and delete Gmail account. It will go some way to ensure that Google cannot track your online activity.
But there is plenty more you can do to protect your privacy online. Both from the data collecting habits of Google and other services like them.
You have the "Right to be Forgotten"
You now have the right to be forgotten. This means that you can request that Google removes references to stories that might infringe on your privacy. It means you can get embarrassing pictures or articles removed from Google’s archive. And this means that they will no longer appear if people search for them on Google.
It is a very useful tool to protect your own privacy. Particularly if there is a specific incident you don’t want to be in the public domain. And what’s more, it can be applied for people living almost anywhere in the world.
How do I do this?!
To make a request for something to be removed from Google’s database, you simply have to fill in their official form. As you might expect, there is quite a bit of detail required in the form. But if there is something you really want to be removed, it is well worth the time and effort.
You can also find plenty of online guides to help you go through the process of filling in the form. This one is particularly easy to follow and helpful.
The Ideal two-step Solution to Protecting
Your Online Privacy
If you are particularly keen to assert your right to online privacy, but would like to continue using some or all of Google’s services, there is a simple two-step policy you can follow. These two steps will not help you remove information about you that is already online. To do that, the methods we have explained above are the best approach.
But they will help you to ensure that further such information about you is not being stored. They will stop companies such as Google from being able to identify you. And they will effectively render all of your online activity both private and secure:
1. Use a VPN
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is one of the most cost-effective tools you will ever invest in. It can encrypt all of your online activity. It can hide your identity online, allowing you to browse anonymously. And it can help you to get around other online issues such as state censorship and geo-restricted content as well.
What a VPN does is redirect your online traffic down an encrypted pathway to an external server. This encryption means everything you do online is secure and hidden from prying eyes.
- Securer is always better -
The external server has its own IP Address. Your IP Address is the piece of data websites use to identify you. But with a VPN they can only see the IP Address of the server. This means they cannot tell who you are unless you choose to give them information. And depending on where the server is located, they might not even be able to tell which country you are in. (This is what allows you to get around issues like state censorship and geo-restricted content).
By funneling all your online traffic through a VPNs external server, you are making yourself invisible to the websites you visit. And this, of course, is a big privacy and security boost for you when you are online.
The popularity of VPNs has grown massively in the past few years. This has been put down to greater public awareness of online privacy issues. And that, in turn, is largely down to the ‘Edward Snowden effect’.
But the fact is that a VPN is the first place any privacy-conscious internet user should turn.
2. Use TOR Browser
Tor is another online tool which, like a VPN, can help to hide your online identity. The Tor Project protects your identity in a similar way to a VPN. It bounces your online traffic around a network of relays around the globe. These ‘relays’ are machines operated by volunteers. Each connection is encrypted. Because traffic is moved between so many devices it is largely impossible to trace traffic back to its source; you!
- TOR Browser in real life -
It is extremely effective. So effective in fact, that a number of governments are investing large sums of money and resources into finding a way to crack it. They have so far failed miserably.
The way to use Tor is actually pretty straight-forward. All you have to do is download their browser. It is free to download from their website. And then when you are going online, simply make use of this browser instead of Google Chrome, or whatever browser you use now.
There are a few notes of caution that the Tor Project recommend when using the Tor browser. These include not installing plugins onto the browser. They also suggest not opening documents you have downloaded whilst still online.
Both VPNs and Tor are solutions well worth taking a look at if you are serious about your online privacy. And of course, there is no reason whatsoever why you can’t use both solutions together. Twice the security and twice the privacy.
So there we have it. It is actually not so difficult to permanently delete your history Google.
We have explained:
- How you can download your google search history
- Deleting your Google search history permanently.
- Stop Google collecting your data in the future.
- How to Delete your Chrome extensions, your Gmail account and your Entire Google account
Lastly, we have explained our suggested two-step process to ensure your privacy is permanently protected online. These two solutions, a VPN and Tor, are the best way to keep using google, but be sure your privacy is protected.
It is up to you which solution or combination of solutions in this article suit you best. Just remember that whichever options you go for, it is possible to either permanently delete your google history or keep using some specific Google services safely and securely should you so wish.
We really hope this guide helped you in your search for how to permanently delete your Google history. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments section below!
AUTHOR: Chris Beattie // Chris is a Co-founder of Fried.com. He is passionate about helping individuals keep their online activity private and unrestricted.